Job abandonment in Swiss employment law

In cases of unjustified job abandonment or failure to commence work, the employer is entitled to compensation equivalent to a quarter of the employee’s gross monthly salary and, possibly, additional damages if they can prove they suffered further harm due to the job abandonment or failure to start work.

Regarding job abandonment, the employment relationship ends immediately, and immediate dismissal by the employer becomes unnecessary.

However, the employer must ensure that the worker who abruptly leaves their job expresses a conscious, deliberate, and definitive desire to end the employment relationship.

The employee’s intention to abandon their job can be inferred from an express declaration or be tacit, inferred from conclusive acts (for example, not showing up for work without any justification for several months). When it results from an express declaration, which is quite rare, the employer does not need to terminate the employment contract. However, it may be advisable for the employer to confirm that they have noted the employee has abandoned their job and that the employment contract has ended. When it is tacit, it is necessary to determine the extent to which the employer objectively and in good faith had to understand that the employee intended to leave their job permanently.

In cases of the worker’s absence due to health reasons without a medical certificate, the employer cannot conclude job abandonment without first requesting the employee to resume work or provide a medical certificate.

When the employee’s absence is short-term, it cannot simply be considered job abandonment but may possibly be a breach of the employee’s contractual obligations that, after warning, could lead to immediate termination for just cause under Article 337 of the Code of Obligations (CO).

For example, a temporary refusal to work due to the employee’s anger is not considered job abandonment as long as the employer can realize the temporary nature of the refusal.

When the employee’s absence is long-term, several months, the employer must consider that the employee refuses to continue the employment relationship, and therefore, there is job abandonment.

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